Pasco seeks advice on ending breed-specific dog restrictions

The city of Pasco invited local advocates to the next city council meeting where they will soon evaluate city ordinances on dog breeds labeled as “dangerous or potentially dangerous animals” to comply with new state law.

Washington state law will soon require cities to update breed-specific legislation. Pasco is not the first city to go through the evaluation process.

On Nov. 5, Kennewick City Council voted to repeal breed-specific legislation. Prior to the repeal, the law required several precautions for owners of Pit Bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire Bull terriers.

According to Kennewick Municipal Code 8.02.320, owners of these breeds were required to have a permit. To receive a permit, owners had to provide the animal with a secure enclosure, post warning signs of a potentially dangerous animal on their property and notify neighbors of their dog’s breed. In addition to these requirements, owners had to obtain at least $250,000 of liability insurance.

Under Kennewick law, owners also had to muzzle and leash their animal. A dog under the listed breed found outside their required enclosure would result in the owner possibly subject to criminal charges.

As of Nov. 14, the legislation in Kennewick was repealed. A Pit Bull cannot be deemed a “potentially dangerous animal” based on their breed.

Now the City of Pasco is following Kennewick’s lead by discussing and possibly changing its ordinances.

The change in Kennewick is not the only reason though. On Apr. 30, House Bill 1026 was signed by Gov. Inslee stating “cities may not prohibit ownership of specific breeds of dog unless the city meets a number of conditions.”

Cities in Washington are allowed to have restrictions on breeds under HB 1026 as long as there are exemptions. Those exemptions include the AKC Canine Good Citizen test or the good behavior test. Both exemptions highlight the temperament of the animal in question and if a dog initially fails the test, they are able to retest in due time.

The bill’s author, Rep. Sherry Appleton said “We have effective dangerous-dog laws throughout Washington, and they work. We can now simply enforce those laws as intended, and stop persecuting people based on what breed of dog they’ve chosen to love and have in their family.”

HB 1026 will go into effect on January 1, 2020. This means the City of Pasco has less than two months to be in compliance with the new law.

Kennewick City Council reviewed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test and the good behavior test but rejected both before approving the repeal in a 4-2 vote. Council members also sought advice from community members and advocates of Pit Bulls, including Ashley Schoenwald.

Ashley rescued a Pit Bull and says he is a member of her family.

“My dog is a good representative of the breed because of his relaxed personality and qualities,” Schoenwald told KAPP-KVEW.

Schoenwald started a petition to end breed-specific legislation (BSL) in Kennewick. The online petition received more than 3,600 signatures. The petition lists city codes, public records and the local support behind ending BSL.

Public records listed in the online petition show the reported dog bite statistics from Tri-Cities Animal Control through 2014-2018. There were 177 bites reported in Kennewick over the five-year span including 41 from Chihuahuas, 18 from Pit bulls and 18 from Retrievers.

The petition reads, “The data shows that a wide variety of dog breeds were involved in human bite cases in Kennewick over the last five years, which goes to show that any dog can and will bite and it’s unfair to impose special requirements on any particular breed of dog.”

The City of Richland does not have breed-specific legislation and in the same data, there were 83 reports of dog bites in the city. Only 10 of the reported bites were from Pit Bulls.

The petition goes on to highlight another city code, KMC 8.02.010 (18) Section D, which states that any dogs with similar features as a Pit Bull is also included in the breed-specific legislation.

Schoenwald and other supporters of ending BSL spoke to Kennewick City Council members before their vote in early Nov.

“We even had vets or animal techs that work with animals every day say that they couldn’t tell if some dogs were Pit Bulls or not,” Schoenwald said. “If people that work with dogs all the time can’t tell if a dog is a Pit Bull or not, of course other people could mistake a dog with a boxy head for one.”

The legislation labeling some dogs as “dangerous or potentially dangerous animals” ​​​​​​was including dogs that weren’t actually on the list provided in the city code, causing the blame to fall on Pit Bulls even though they may be a different breed altogether.

Schoenwald said she was glad the council members listened to their research and noticed their efforts for the cause.

In mid-Nov., city officials in Pasco personally reached out to Schoenwald as they begin their evaluation process.

“They have asked us to come to all of their city council meetings,” Schoenwald said.

She has made a new petition to end BSL in Pasco stating that “the City of Pasco, is now the only one left in the Tri-Cities area with breed specific legislation and we think it’s time to change that.”

Much of Pasco’s BSL is similar to Kennewick’s codes, but a $250 annual permit fee is also added to the list of requirements for “owners of potentially dangerous dogs.”

Using the same data as before, Schoenwald’s petition highlights the 201 dog bites reported in Pasco from 2014-2018. Within that time, 18 reported bites from Pit Bulls, 28 reported bites from Retrievers, 23 reported bites from German Shepherds, 22 reported bites from herding breeds such as American Blue Heeler, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherds, and Border Collies and 42 reported bites from Chihuahuas.

With HB 1026 going into effect in less than 2 months, only 25 cities in Washington state still have breed-specific legislation, including Pasco. The petition says that is an indicator Pasco should change its law and hold every dog owner responsible rather than only Pit Bull owners.

Schoenwald and other supporters of ending BSL will be attending the next Pasco City Council meeting on Dec. 2.